It’s the eyes that really get to you – scores of them, glittering coppery-red like the pilot lights on a hundred flamethrowers. And that ceaseless ebb and surge of tiny, ravenous bodies, darting at your heels only to wince back from the glare of your torch. A Plague Tale’s corner of 14th century France is home to many terrors – the black death, the Inquisition, raiding English soldiers – but the most tenacious and oppressive are the rats, a lethal mass swirling through towns hollowed out by disease and erupting from the shambles of battlefields. It’s a threat you must learn to live with, while guiding nobleman’s daughter Amicia and her sickly infant brother Hugo to sanctuary, and a threat you can turn to your advantage. The rats aren’t fussy about who they devour, after all, and one girl’s chittering Gothic metaphor is another girl’s handy terrain trap.
As that gruesome notion may suggest, Innocence’s narrative is all about the loss of it. Created by Asobo Studios, a developer otherwise known for contract work on projects like Quantum Break, it’s a third-person “single-player co-op” odyssey in the tradition of The Last of Us, where the the rigours of travel catalyse a deepening relationship between the character you control, Amicia, and the frail soul in her charge. As the story begins, Amicia and Hugo are forced to flee their castle home by the Inquisition’s appearance. Why the Church’s enforcers are after them remains to be seen but presumably has to do with Hugo’s mysterious terminal affliction, which is styled a “blood curse” by other characters.
The pair aren’t close, to begin with. Hugo has been quarantined since birth, and Amicia isn’t exactly the cuddly big sister: she harbours a certain bitterness about her brother’s greater share of their mother’s attention. Having been left to her own devices as a child, Amicia is also independent and resourceful where Hugo is (at first) clingy and easily spooked. It’s a relationship that comes across in a variety of small ways as you play – so far, the emphasis is on such passing interactions rather than cutscenes. At one point in our demo, which occurs a third of the way through this 10-12 hour story, Hugo appears brandishing a dead man’s shield, prompting Amicia to snap at him incredulously. Hugo’s naivety is to some degree an asset, insulating him against a full understanding of the horrors all around. “Do you think we’re hurting them?” he frets, as the pair step gingerly over corpses while attempting to reach a distant chateau.
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